Simone Biles left the defense of her individual all-around Olympic crown on Wednesday, a day after shockingly withdrew from the women’s team final due to mental health issues.
As a global outpouring of support for the troubled American gymnastics superstar grew, a statement from USA Gymnastics confirmed Biles would not compete in Thursday’s overall final.
The 24-year-old 2016 Olympic all-around gold medalist’s participation in the four individual event finals starting on Sunday will be decided after further evaluation, USAG said.
“Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health,” USAG said in a statement.
After further medical examination, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-round competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her courage to put her well-being first. Her bravery once again demonstrates why she is a role model to so many. pic.twitter.com/6ILdtSQF7o
— Gymnastics in the USA (@USAGym) July 28, 2021
“Simone will be evaluated daily to determine whether or not he will compete in the individual finals of the event next week.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her courage to put her well-being first. Her bravery shows once again why she is a role model for so much money.”
The decision marks a stunning turn of events for Biles, who was widely expected to crown the greatest career in gymnastics history with another multiple run of gold medals in Tokyo.
The little Texan, winner of four golds at the 2016 Rio Olympics, competed for six golds in Japan.
Game Changing Moment
But her campaign unraveled on Tuesday when she suddenly withdrew from the team finals after an unusually shaky display on the opening vault. Biles later said she withdrew from the final out of concerns for her mental well-being.
“I need to focus on my mental health,” Biles said. “I didn’t want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt… We don’t want to be carried out on a stretcher in the end.”
Biles’ decision has been hailed as a groundbreaking moment for elite sport, removing the enduring stigma surrounding mental health.
Biles told U.S. Olympic broadcaster NBC television late Tuesday that she would assess her willingness to compete “day by day.”
“Physically I feel good, I’m in shape,” she told NBC’s Today program. “We’re going to look at it day by day, and we’re just going to see it.”
As Biles reflected on her shattered Olympic dreams, she received widespread support from athletes, officials and public figures.
“Simone, you’ve made us so proud. Proud of who you are as a person, teammate and athlete,” said Sarah Hirshland, chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
“We applaud your decision to prioritize your mental wellbeing above all else and provide you with the full support and resources of our Team USA community as you navigate the journey ahead.”
Obama Support, Phelps Concern
Former US First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted: “Am I good enough? Yes I am. The mantra I practice daily. @Simone_Biles, we’re proud of you and we’re rooting for you.”
Am I good enough? Yes that’s me. The mantra I practice daily. @Simone_Biles, we are proud of you and we are rooting for you. Congratulations on the silver medal, Team @USA! 🎊
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) July 28, 2021
Two-time Olympic Alpine Ski Champion Mikaela Shiffrin also offered support, tweeting: “@Simone_Biles continues to bring out that smile of yours because it is undeniably gold. Always.”
American swimming and Olympic legend Michael Phelps, who revealed his own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts after the 2012 Olympics in 2018, said watching Biles on Tuesday “broke my heart.”
Phelps told NBC that the Olympics can be overwhelming for athletes, and that he often struggled to find support during his own career.
“The most important thing is that we all have to ask for help sometimes too as we go through those times,” Phelps said. “For me personally I can say that it was something very challenging. I found it difficult to ask for help.”
Biles’ former US teammate Aly Raisman spoke of her concerns for her boyfriend’s well-being.
“I know all these athletes have been dreaming of this moment all their lives, so I’m just absolutely devastated,” Raisman told NBC.
“I’m obviously so worried and just hope Simone is okay.”
Raisman and Biles were among the gymnasts abused by former US team doctor Larry Nassar, who was jailed in 2018 for sexual assault.
“It’s just so much pressure, and I’ve seen how much pressure she’s been under in the months leading up to the Games, and it’s just devastating. I feel terrible,” Raisman added.